The tail ends of the last ships blazed like demon fireworks. They hissed mockingly at those below, staring up in disbelief and hopelessness.

“There’s another ship, right, Mommy? That’s what they said. We’ll all be okay.”

Matthew, a young boy of five years and five months, tugged repeatedly at the listless woman’s dress. He didn’t know why he was crying, but everyone else was. Everyone was sad; everyone was scared.

“Sure,” she muttered to keep the child quiet. It didn’t work.

“Where? When do we get on? Is it a big one? Where will I sit? How long will it take?”

The boy was frantic, but the woman didn’t answer. He had been sure he would’ve boarded the last round—everyone else thought so, too. They were all lottery winners, but at the last minute, it had played out the way they were afraid it would, the way they knew it would.

The rich had somehow bribed their way, the unbreakable system broken by a tide of money, influence, bullying and power.

The way it always did. The way it always had. And now there was nothing left.

Those who remained were the gentle souls. They were the scientists, the artists, the poets, the mathematicians, the caretakers, the farmers, the elderly and workers.

Even frenzied politicians, businessmen, and military personnel had been allowed to cut in front of them. They had been assured that there would be room for all, and they believed it. Now they knew it had all been a ploy to keep them from panicking, from causing trouble and thwarting the others escaping, and they were helpless.

It had been a year since they first heard the news. A meteor was headed for the earth, twice as large as the one that killed the dinosaurs.

The earth was in trouble anyway. Global warming had caused temperatures to soar, the sea to rise, weather systems to grow with monstrous and catastrophic intensity and impact. People lived, barely, in high grounds, isolated from one another for the most part. Some had formed communities, but the outlook was bleak. So those with the money, technological resources and capacity had devised “Operation Dissemination” and started constructing huge space vessels capable of traveling at intensely high speeds.

The original idea was to load these vessels with all the materials necessary for rebuilding a civilization on Mars in order to escape the increasingly uninhabitable earth. However, with the discovery of the meteor, the motivation had changed and work had escalated to a break-neck speed. Despite the fact that dozens of possible solutions had been proposed for dealing with the meteor, the panic for survival had escalated beyond reason, and Operation Dissemination—or “Jump Ship,” as it was more commonly known—had consumed all available resources and attention.

Initially, a large pool of individuals possessing diverse talents and specialties were selected, regardless of their social or economic status. This was done to “ensure the survival of the species” and “the continuation of culture, science, and the best of humanity.” For this pool, a lottery had been held.

The winners now stood in hushed despair, watching the last of the two functioning mega ships—the Kronos and Icarus—hurtle skyward in unison. It was a desperate flight: the meteor was only hours from striking. Below, the disassembled Prometheus lay in parts; its directional systems had failed, fueling the panic to board the other ships. A few hopeful scientists picked through the pieces, while another watched the luckier ships’ flight on a monitor.

This particular launch site had been built atop a mountain in what had once been inland Virginia, but was now optimistically called Beatitude Bay. With the rising waters, the eerily close and brilliant sea carried a threatening glisten.  The launch station, or depot as it was called, was an enormous tetrahedral structure with lead-infused glass prisms shining softly in a dome construction. At the top was the exit passage, an opening where a dozen or so triangulated pieces had been folded back like an alien flower to allow the vessels to escape.

Outside, the crowds of people who had been neither powerful nor winners were pressed up against the sides of the transparent structure. Earlier, many of them had pounded, screamed, begged, pushed and pleaded for entry. Now they too were silent, watching in mute dismay. Some started drifting, but most remained, as the out-of-door temperatures were horrific, and the glass was cool to lean against. This was because the depot interior had been—at least for the pre-launch—air-conditioned for the passengers-to-be.

Slowly, a realization dawned on them that the power was now cut and the security system and locks were no longer in operation. Only manual bolts now held the door. The crowd had nothing to lose: they surged forward, pushing and yanking on the mechanical locks, with some scaling up the sides of the dome toward the opening on top.

“Oh no! They’re getting in!” someone yelled.

“Please let them in, Mommy,” Matthew begged. Becoming aware of their sad faces had been too much.  He wanted relief for them.

Without thinking, and in spite of the shouts from the people around her, his mother obeyed. It was something she could do for him. She walked over to the main doors and unlatched them. A flood of people poured in, running, some falling, some dragging their belongings, their children.  The place heated up almost immediately, but for the people who had entered, it was still a much-cooler reprieve.

Then, the unthinkable happened. A huge earthquake rolled the earth, sending boulders down hills, tearing trees from the earth and opening up loamy fissures all around. Almost immediately, tidal waves reared up from the distant sea, taller than skyscrapers and headed their way. Most people made it inside in time, sealing the doors shut behind them. The few who had been scaling the sides of the dome were washed away. The wave crested the building briefly, emptying through the top opening like a giant waterfall and flooding the floors below before emptying through grates. People were washed around, but only a few were seriously injured. The remnants of Prometheus, on the platform, stayed dry, although some exterior shell pieces had been scattered by the earthquake.

It took some time but people came together, tending for each other, crying and hugging. Then, after a while, there was even laughter as stories were told. The light outside faded. The crowd gathered around the platform where the broken vessel remained, as the electrical systems continued to power many of its screens. They waited for aftershocks, but there were none. No more waves either.

“What are we going to do?” asked one.

“Wait, I suppose,” answered another.

“Do you think there are others alive?” someone said.

“Probably at the other launching areas, at least.”

It started getting cold, so they came closer together.

“What if we sang?” asked a young woman, whose lyrical voice indicated talent.


So she started to sing, leading others. Time passed quickly as she sang songs about grace, about crossing waters, about going home.

Then she was interrupted by the loud speaker: “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God—I can’t believe it!” shouted the scientist who had been watching the monitor.

“What?” asked the crowd.

“I thought the monitor was broken by the earthquake, but it’s not…”

“That’s good news, I guess,” said one older man.

“No, it’s not just that… it’s what has happened with the ships.”

“What?” the chorus asked again.

The scientist came away from the monitor and adjusted his glasses. In the softened twilight of the instrument’s illuminations, colorful zig-zags of reflected lighting danced on his lenses.

“There is both good and bad news.”

“Give us the bad news first,” a young man insisted. “It can’t get much worse than this.”

“The ships have disappeared. I fear they may have gone off course… In any case, they went into hyper-speed faster than expected, and in unison, this created an interdimensional anomaly, causing their trajectories to amplify in sync—”

“Meaning?” asked the young man, clearly exasperated.

“Well, they are gone. I don’t know what happened exactly, but from the playbacks, it looks like they may have been swallowed by a blackhole.”

“How can this be?” cried a young woman.

“I’m not sure, but these kinds of speeds have never been tested before with these kinds of masses. In single vector and in sync, I think it created extreme gravity with consequent laws of attraction to extreme densities, such as blackholes.”

Everyone was silent. Soft sobbing ebbed through the room. The scientist removed his glasses and wiped them with the tail of his shirt.

Then the young man asked, “What is the good news?”

“Extreme gravity was created—”

“Yes, yes, we know that.”

“And it did something amazing: It pulled the meteor way off course, so we won’t be hit.”

Cheers immediately went up.

“It also caused our earth to wobble in its orbit and tilt its axis slightly. We’re still in our orbit but we’re now cooling down, and may enter glaciation.”

“You mean an Ice Age?” asked a school teacher, standing up.  “We can deal with that! We can use what we have here”—she gestured to the Prometheus and depot—“as well as all of our combined skills. Then we’ll reach out to the others like us.”

And so they did.